The Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who was third quickest, look the most likely to upset Vettel's plans, but it could be a long night for Hamilton on the tight, corner-heavy circuit where overtaking is notoriously tough.
"But I think Lewis, with where he was on Friday and where he is now, can hang on to the group".
"Normally I'm happy with the podium", he said.
At the same time, auto 5 which had a slower start, moved to the left hand side of the track; vehicle 33 and vehicle 7 then collided resulting in a chain collision with auto 5 and ultimately auto 14 (Fernando Alonso) at the next turn.
Lewis Hamilton has claimed a surprise win at an incident-packed Singapore Grand Prix with Australia's Daniel Ricciardo finishing second for Red Bull and Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas third.
And then it all went wrong.
"For sure, it's bitter but it's done", said the four times Singapore GP victor, whose retirement ended a run of 18 successive points finishes.
Hamilton is pinning his hopes of moving up the field on the start, the pitstops and the potential of a safety auto which has been deployed at every race in Singapore so far.
Australian Ricciardo had been confident of victory, despite missing out on pole on Saturday but could not keep up with the Briton's pace on Sunday.
"That was the most frustrating thing, frustrating not to get that first win here. I'm trying", he said afterwards.
"Today I'll accept a little bit of defeat but there's still a lot to play for tomorrow", Ricciardo said. I needed it to rain and as soon as it did I knew where I was going to finish.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who will move to Renault next season, finished fourth for Toro Rosso to score the best result of his career.
Stoffel Vandoorne secured seventh, followed by Lance Stroll in eighth and Romain Grosjean in ninth place.
French rookie Esteban Ocon scored the final point for Force India in tenth.
But Hamilton dodged the pile-up and he progressed from fifth on the grid to first, ahead of Ricciardo, as the race finally restarted after a safety vehicle.